Just three and a half years ago I stood at the side of nearly century-old Grenache vineyard in the Barossa shaking my head.
There we were, Marco Cirillo and I, gazing at a plot of ancient vines bearing fruit with no home. No one wanted to commit (except for Marco) with the grower previously offered less than $900/tonne. $900! For low yielding bush vine Grenache! When the Shiraz fruit next door was selling for almost $3000 per tonne…
It made little sense then (and especially not to Marco), and I look back at that time as if it’s a different age. Now, Grenache is cool again, winning Jimmy Watson trophies, and embraced by a whole new generation of young(ish) winemakers making delicious wines.
For evidence of the grape’s evolution, today I’m looking at eight great Australian Grenache that I’d happily drink (and that’s on the back of many fine wines lately)
Is this a Grenache golden age?
Juxtaposed Old Vine Grenache 2017
Wes Pearson is a mate, so I’m always consciously aware of my bias (and perhaps mark harder as a result). But this McLaren Vale Grenache is so good that I had to text him as soon as I opened it. Delicious wine, with super packaging and A1 attention to detail. Fruit comes the Smart Vineyard in Clarendon and the Wait Vineyard in Blewitt Springs with 30% of the Wait fruit is whole bunches. No additions save for some late sulphur, matured in old oak, then bottled unfined and unfiltered. There’s this lucidity and brightness here, but it goes beyond crunchy red fruit, with an undercurrent of darker bits thanks to the whole bunch components, and finishing with real tannins. It’s more ripe Pinot than Shiraz, more prettiness than power, and more medium than full, but so delicious fine finish of light tannins. It’s a beauty. A picture-perfect McLaren Vale Grenache. I might even be underrating it.
Best drinking: Now to ten years, but in a good place now. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%, $37. Would I buy it? Absolutely.
Chapel Hill Bush Vine Grenache 2017
A different wine in 2017, and like many wines from this late vintage, it’s unquestionably brighter and prettier. Less hearty, more redcurrant fruit, with a little tang. It’s maybe a little simple, but I guarantee it will improve and it’s long too. Pretty McLaren Vale Grenache.
Best drinking: Tasty now, tasty for another decade. 18/20, 93/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Yangarra Grenache 2016
If you want a McLaren Vale Grenache hero then it is Yangarra, where Pete Fraser can do no wrong. This red is the ‘standard’ Yangarra Grenache but is anything but a slouch. Handpicked, it includes 50% whole berries, the juice fermented wild (which is unusual for McLaren Vale and spends 10 months in older oak. Compared to the other ’17 vintage Grenache wines here this is soft and generous, with gentle, squishy red berries and open fruit. There’s some lovely fine tannins to make this more savoury, but it remains warm and luscious red fruited style. Classy, genuinely varietal low acid style with excellent drinkability. Yum.
Best drinking: Now and ten years easy. 18/20, 93/100. 14.5%, $35. Would I buy it? Yes.
Hickinbotham Elder Hill Grenache 2016
From a single block of bush vines planted in 1962. Includes 10% whole bunches. Plunged 3 times daily. A much more extractive style than the Yangarra Grenache (though part of the same Jackson Family portfolio), with firm glacé red fruit and drying firm tannins. A hearty style of Grenache with pomp and power. Maybe less delicacy but this feels like so much wine.
Best drinking: This will go long and arguably better in 2-3 years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $75. Would I buy it? Not cheap, but I’d happily drink it.
Hither & Yon Grenache 2016
The first 100% Grenache from Hither & Yon and shows that open and ripe Sellicks foothills style. Just 700 bottles made! Baked raspberry aplenty in a warm fruited, glycerol rich southern Vale style. Lovely raspberry fruit but it quickly devolves into syrup and the finish is all alcohol. Good impact and proper varietal character but it’s just a bit hot and treacly. Genuine raspberry fruit though.
Best drinking: Now to seven or eight years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.2%, $70. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
The Other Wine Co. McLaren Vale Grenache 2017
Ultra slurpable Grenache. It’s slightly spritzy and very much about fruit, but with lovely juicy flow – really vibrant – of gummy red currant fruit with a little grip. Such energy – it’s everything you’d want in a joven style and at a great price.
Best drinking: Great now and while it will be alive in five years it is now in the prime. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $26. Would I buy it? Yes.
Seppeltsfield Barossa Grenache 2016
A broad and very ripe wine with easy ripe fruit. Lolly redcurrant and tar nose, the alcohol a constant presence, some glycerol sweetness offsetting the warmth. There is a nice licoricey savouriness to the palate to help the shape, but it’s ultimately the alcohol that is the final flavour. Drinkable though and well priced.
Best drinking: Now to five years as I worry about the alcohol. 17/20, 90/100. 14.7%, $25. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Tim Smith Grenache 2017
Old vine Grenache, matured in old oak. Ruby red colour, the languid nose is a bit shy, the lightly syrupy palate packs in lots of raspberry fruit if a little warm (and slightly tart). Another approachable young Grenache, though maybe a bit ripe to be an absolute winner.
Best drinking: Now to six years. Just a bit ripe again. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $38. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
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Do you know of any retailers in Sydney, preferably north of the bridge, that stock the Yangarra ?